Latvala: Katsuta needs to relax more

Toyota team principal believes Japanese driver has the speed - now he needs to learn to keep his cool


After crashing out of the lead battle at Rally Portugal, you could forgive Takamoto Katsuta for wondering what exactly he has to do to get his first win in the World Rally Championship. According to Jari-Matti Latvala though, the answer is simple: relax.

It has been a pretty up-and-down season for the Japanese driver so far in 2024. His hopes of a good result in Sweden were ended by a snowbank. Just a few weeks later, at Safari Rally Kenya, he bounced back and finished second. That form continued into Croatia Rally, where he scored maximum Super Sunday points.

Promise was shown on Friday in Portugal too. Katsuta led after the opening loop of stages and, by the end of the day, he was still less than five seconds off the rally lead. A solid start. Momentum to build on.


Katsuta's Portugal exit was his second recourse to super rally of 2024

Except the Toyota driver didn’t build on it. On the first run through Saturday’s 23-mile Amarante stage, he clipped a stone wall and broke his rear suspension. Game over.

The fact that Katsuta is even able to put himself in contention for wins in the early part of the weekend is not lost on Toyota team principal Latvala.

“I think what we see in Taka is clearly that on the Friday he is able to be in the lead,” he told DirtFish. “I think with that step he has shown he has the potential. He is capable of driving against the other drivers.”

Latvala does not believe Katsuta’s problems are an issue of ability, but one of mentality.

“I think it’s not about the skills – Taka has the skills,” he explained. “It goes more to the mental side because the situation that when you think where you are, the pressure you put more on yourself on the next day of the rally.

“If you know that you are in third position and you can win it, it’s the pressure that you start to take to yourself.”

In reality, pressure should not have been an issue last weekend. Portugal was supposed to be a rally where Katsuta could let loose and enjoy himself. The presence of Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä meant he didn’t need to worry about scoring points for Toyota and could just focus on his own rally.

We aren’t likely to see both Ogier and Rovanperä competing on the same rally on many occasions this year, so Katsuta needs to find a solution. For Latvala, that solution is clear: find a way to carry the approach that is allowing Katsuta to thrive on Fridays into the rest of the weekend.

“If we can maintain that relaxed feeling that he has on Friday,” he said, “that is the target and then probably we can bring it to the end of the Saturday. And then you have the third step on Sunday.”